My first ride on the MTA subway system was in the early 1970s when I rode from the Bronx to the East Village to attend classes at NYU.
It was the beginning of the eras of both the NYC graffiti movement and Hip Hop. The 1974 film Style Wars exposes the artists who painted those trains—inside and outside.
Then, the 4 Train was made up of old cars from as early as the 1930s, and 1940s—probably the R-19s. The seats were covered in rattan, and there were ceiling fans in every car and in summer all the windows were open. Passengers moved freely or stood (illegally) between cars—the clatter was deafening.
This season, on December Saturdays (2, 9, 16, 23, and 30), between 10:00. and 16:00, the MTA offers nostalgia rides on those same cars. Regular subway fares apply; station stops are listed here.
Otherwise, the MTA Transit Museum ($10) displays vintage cars and busses year-round at its facility, a decommissioned Subway Station in Brooklyn. The nearest station is Borough Hall, on the 4 or 5 Train.
This is a little-known adventure and a fun way to experience the largest subway system in the world. Its 457 stations is 150 more than the second-largest, Paris.
The Nostalgia Train Departs:
2nd Avenue on the uptown F line in Lower Manhattan at:
145th Street on the downtown D line at: